A look at how Dansby Swanson’s 2023 matches up to other shortstops in last year’s free agent class originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Pennant fever has officially arrived on the North Side, following a trade deadline that saw the Chicago Cubs add to their team for the first time in four years as they inch closer to a playoff spot.
A large part of the Cubs’ return to contention has been shortstop Dansby Swanson, who has greatly bolstered both the team’s middle infield defense and offensive production in the first year of a seven-year, $177 million deal.
Despite the massive value in Swanson’s contract, which is the second-richest in Cubs’ history, it was only the fourth-most valuable contract handed to a shortstop last offseason.
A two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox, Xander Bogaerts agreed to an astronomical 11-year, $280 million deal with the San Diego Padres.
A world champion with the Washington Nationals and coming off of a strong season and a half with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Trea Turner inked an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Then in perhaps what was any offseason’s wildest free agent saga, top prize Carlos Correa initially seemed to be headed to the Bay Area, agreeing to a 13-year, $350 million contract with the San Francisco Giants before health concerns derailed the deal.
Correa then appeared to agree to a 12-year, $315 million deal with the New York Mets, but concerns over his physical also steered them away, leading Correa to re-engage with the Minnesota Twins, signing for $200 million over six years.
While Swanson’s contract showed a significant financial commitment from the Cubs’ front office, the team’s brass also faced criticism from fans for not spending more on one of the three shortstops that were perceived to be of a higher long-term value than Swanson.
With less than a third of the season remaining, thus far it looks as if the Cubs perhaps made the best investment.
The reigning National League Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Swanson has continued his success in Chicago as half of perhaps the finest defensive middle infield in baseball.
On top of a walk-rate near career-high levels at 10.6% and a recent power surge at the plate, Swanson’s glove has stood out as one of the finest in all of baseball this year, regardless of position.
Swanson’s 1.8 defensive WAR ranks third in the NL and fifth in the MLB, and his 13 outs above average is tied for the best mark in baseball, with Swanson’s glove estimated to have prevented 10 runs this season.
At the plate, Dansby has totaled 17 home runs and doubles apiece, driving in 53 runs while slashing .263/.346/.455, good for an .801 OPS and 113 OPS+, both of which currently represent career-high marks over full seasons, not including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
With a total of 3.9 WAR, Swanson has been the most valuable Cub this season, and has inarguably been one of the largest factors in turning the Cubs from a fledgling deadline-seller to a team playing a factor in the NL pennant race.
As for the other three shortstops, their first season on lucrative deals has not been as rosy as it has been for Swanson and the Cubs.
Xander Bogaerts has put up respectable, albeit underwhelming numbers for the Padres thus far in 2023 for a team fighting to stay in the playoff race.
In 105 games, Bogaerts is hitting .268/.344/.395, with 18 doubles and 11 home runs while leading the senior circuit in double plays grounded into with 16.
His 108 OPS+, while still above league average, is the lowest mark he’s had in the category often seen as an offensive benchmark since 2017, where he rated slightly below league average with a 95 OPS+.
Bogaerts has been worth 2.4 WAR thus far in 2023 for the Padres.
The frustrations, while perhaps temporarily subsided by a dramatic grand slam Saturday night, have been even more pronounced for Trea Turner.
Long seen as one of the game’s most surefire power-speed threats with outstanding contact, the previous batting champion has compiled an underwhelming first campaign in the City of Brotherly Love.
Just one year removed from a Silver Slugger and finishing 11th in NL MVP voting, Turner has slashed just .238/.291/.377 in 2023, with 22 doubles and 11 home runs to go along with 39 RBI and 21 stolen bases.
While a perfect 21-for-21 on the basepaths, Turner’s remarkable drop in on-base percentage has greatly reduced the threat he has become known and feared for around the league.
At just an 81 OPS+, this season has been the worst of his career by a notable margin thus far, and at just 0.3 defensive WAR, the production with the glove has not done enough to compensate for the drop in offense.
In 2023, Turner has accumulated 1.1 WAR for the Phillies thus far.
For Correa, the first year of a six-year deal and second year in Minnesota has not panned out incredibly well for the star shortstop.
After recovering from a slow start in 2022 to finish last season with 22 home runs and a 138 OPS+, Correa has greatly struggled to get going in 2023 for a first-place Twins team in a struggling division.
In 100 games, Correa has totaled just 86 knocks in 390 at-bats, hitting 23 doubles and 12 home runs while grounding into 20 double plays, more than anyone else in the MLB this season.
Slashing .221/.295/.382, Correa’s OPS+ of 86 comprises the lowest mark of his career thus far, and shows a muted power and line drive threat that has seemingly been a constant in the American League for much of the last decade.
Correa’s 0.7 WAR is the lowest of the big-money shortstops in 2023, and perhaps implies that the star infielder could still be dealing with an ankle injury that made two teams back away from lucrative deals this offseason.
Though fans and media members alike expressed skepticism over the Cubs not aggressively pursuing the three shortstops that ended up inking more valuable contracts, Swanson’s performance on the field and fit in the clubhouse shows that perhaps the best possible long-term move last offseason was made.
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